Georgia Regents name interim chief to lead state’s university system

During Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced his retirement, quoting Kenny Rogers song, “The Gambler” saying you need to “Know when to walk away”. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Caption
During Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced his retirement, quoting Kenny Rogers song, “The Gambler” saying you need to “Know when to walk away”. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Hank Huckaby’s legacy

Since his appointment in 2011, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby has:

Spurred the mergers of several state colleges and universities.

Worked to boost declining enrollments at several South Georgia colleges.

Led initiatives aimed at campus safety and how the University System responds to sexual assaults on campuses.

Opposed efforts to allow guns on college campuses.

The state’s Board of Regents has named an interim leader to oversee Georgia’s public college and university system, following news that its chancellor will retire.

Hank Huckaby announced Wednesday he will step down from the position he's held for five years.

When he leaves December 31, Huckaby will be 75.

In his place, at least temporarily, will be Huckaby’s second-in-command, Steve Wrigley, who takes over as interim chancellor January 1. Wrigley is the system’s executive vice chancellor for administration.

“It’s just time,” Huckaby said Wednesday.

He quoted country music legend Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler” in his announcement.

“You have to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,” he started.

“To me that’s good advice that doesn’t just apply to gamblers, I think it applies to chancellors as well.”

He added, “It’s time for this guy to throw in the hand.”

Gov. Nathan Deal called Huckaby a friend and true public servant, in a published statement. And he endorsed Wrigley’s appointment.

“He has dutifully served the University System, the Board of Regents and the state as chancellor since 2011. I cannot think of a stronger candidate than Steve to replace Hank and lead our University System,” read the statement.

It had been long rumored that this would be Huckaby’s final year with the University System in the position that sets the tone for the 29 schools serving more than 318,000 students across the state.

He came into the powerful position after a long career in academia and state government, including time as a university administrator at several Georgia institutions, state budget director and as a state representative. Those positions served him well in navigating the responsibilities of the state’s top academic job, while being accountable to lawmakers. When appointed in 2011, Huckaby was the first in-state chancellor to be hired by the Board of Regents in more than two decades.

“(Huckaby) was the right man at the right time,” whose knowledge of budgets and budgeting was exactly what what was needed by the University System, said Larry Walker Jr., a member of the Board of Regents and former Georgia lawmaker who served in the state legislature more than 30 years.

“He took us through some tough, tough financial times. I hate to see him go.”

Huckaby came into the chancellor’s position at a time when more of college costs were being borne by students and parents, who at the same time expected more from colleges in terms of educational opportunities and amenities.

During his tenure, Huckaby led the mergers of a number of state colleges and universities and has continued efforts to boost declining enrollments at several south Georgia colleges. He has also led the system's efforts in cutting college costs, increasing the number of students completing and graduating from college, and system-wide initiatives aimed at campus safety and how the system responds to sexual assaults on campuses.

Over the past year, Huckaby also led the system's opposition to efforts to allow guns on college campuses, while also facing criticism from some state lawmakers about rising tuition.

“I hope that our legacy … is that we can proudly say that this is a better system than when we accepted (the position,)” Huckaby said. ” I walk away from this job … knowing that one of the greatest assets that this state has to offer is its university system.”